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Andrew Sendejo talks NIL, brain health and doing his part

Hai Van Hoang / Thresher

By Landry Wood     10/18/23 12:12am

At the end of the last play of his 12-year NFL career, Rice alumnus ’10 Andrew Sendejo lay collapsed on his back at the 31-yard line. He had just sustained a head-to-head collision, knocking him momentarily unconscious, inflicting the second concussion of his age-34 season. 

After struggling to walk off the field, Sendejo would be placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list for the 2021 season’s remaining three games, eventually deciding to retire. According to Sendejo, this ending created new opportunities to strive for new goals.

“Now that I’ve retired from being a professional athlete, I have more time on my hands to be able to give back,” Sendejo said.

For Sendejo, this giving back has primarily taken the form of BrainTree Nutrition, a brain health supplement company he founded with fellow former Owl and NFL player Scott Solomon, ‘12. In late September, BrainTree finalized Rice football’s first ever team-wide name, image and likeness deal, giving student athletes the opportunity to make money by advertising an affiliate link.

“It’s a way for guys who put a lot of time into it to eat what they kill,” Sendejo said. “This way, guys that have that type of following can take advantage of their name, image and likeness … I remember when I was at Rice, scrapping it at Wiess [College], if I could’ve had an extra $100 a month that would’ve been huge, even if it’s just enough extra to get groceries and gas.” 

Players will be advertising merchandise varying from mental focus boosters to anxiety relievers and gut health supplements. According to Sendejo, these are products he wishes were more prevalent and accessible during his time on the gridiron. 

“While I was playing, there weren’t a lot of products available that addressed [traumatic brain injuries] or concussions, nor were there safe and transparent products that addressed the ADHD symptoms that a lot of guys have in the NFL have, since the NFL is very strict on amphetamines being a banned substance,” Sendejo said. “Another of our pill products, the anxiety and stress reliever, has ingredients to help reduce cortisol levels and … get some more natural, studied extracts to help alleviate some of these symptoms.” 

The supplements introduce ingredients to the body that augment different facets of brain health, Sendejo said, with the science behind these ingredients vetted by BrainTree’s consulting team of Solomon’s neurologist mom and anesthesiologist dad. To this end, one of BrainTree’s primary aims is to emphasize and address the role that gut health plays in cognitive function.

“The gut is linked to a lot of degenerative brain diseases and a lot of products out there have strains of probiotics that aren’t proven to be effective,” Sendejo said. “We wanted to make a product that was effective for gut health, not only for the brain, but for overall wellness.” 

For Sendejo, giving back to his community ultimately entails more than what he’s already done with BrainTree. Since being named a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy for community service by a college athlete in 2009, Sendejo has continued to be involved, whether here at Rice in Houston or in his current home in Austin.

“I’ve always obviously given back to Rice,” Sendejo said. “When they built the new end zone complex, I donated the Andrew Sendejo Nutrition Center in the weight room, to do my part … Now that I’m done with [professional football], I have more time to focus on giving back. Even here locally in Austin, we’re able to work with the Austin Sunshine Camps … and just continue to do our part. I’ve been very blessed, very fortunate, even though I had to work very hard to get where I went.”

Sendejo isn’t done working hard. He, along with Solomon and their coworkers, continues endeavoring to improve BrainTree’s success, always with an eye to giving back more and more.

“[The NIL deal] is just a way to help Rice football however we can at this time,” Sendejo said. “As a small company, we’re not at the bar where we can just write checks outright. Obviously, we would love to do that because we know that’s what the players want, and that’s what’s going to help recruiting and help the program overall. But as a company, we’re just not there yet … We want to be examples of Rice guys coming back to Rice, helping in whichever way we can.”

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